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Elleke Boehmer PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:24

Elleke Boehmer (1961-) was born to Dutch parents in Durban, South Africa in 1961. She was educated in South Africa and at Oxford University. She taught at the School of English at Leeds University and has published four novels: Screens against the Sky (1990), An Immaculate Figure (1993), Bloodlines (2000) and Nile Baby (2008). She has also published short stories in magazines, journals and anthologies. Her research is in postcolonial writing and theory, feminism and the literature of empire, and at the moment she is the Hildred Carlile Professor in Literatures in English at the University of London. Amongst her non-fiction works are Altered state? (1994); Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (1995), Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial,1890-1920: Resistance in Interaction (2002). Boehmer edited the anthology Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918 (1998), Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship by Robert Baden-Powell (2004) and Cornela Sorabji’s India Calling (2004). She produced a special edition in the journal Kunapipi on the writings of the Anglo-Boer War (1999) and her study Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation was published in 2005. Boehmer is also the author of Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (2008), part of highly popular Oxford University Press series.

In 2016 her novel, The Shouting in the Dark, was longlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction prize.

(Sources: us/Staff/Boehmer/EllekeBoehmer.htm, 27.06.05 ;, 27.06.05)


Selected Work

Excerpt from An Immaculate Figure (1993):

Sipho took up the story-telling thread from Rosandra. It was a good thread, he said, but maybe he could bring it down to earth. He told a story of his grandmother, an upstanding fierce old woman who was a devout Catholic and yet went about the amulets of her ancestors’ faith sewn into the hems of her church dresses. This woman, Lindiswe Frances Nyembe, lived in a township close to the place where the old Indian prophet, the man who believed in justice and peace, what was his name, Gandhi, once set up a communal centre. She used to tell the children in that area – there were many children, many houses in all directions – about this old prophet. She would tell them that his spirit still lived there in that place and they should honour it. But as the years went by the pressure on that land grew very great. There were so many people, so little land, and so much anger in the people that it became more and more difficult to tell them to show respect for that special piece of earth and the spirit of the man who onced lived there. And so the day came, Sipho said, that the people were so severely pressed against the walls of their shacks and – even though their bellies looked like balloons – so hungry, that they moved and built their tin-can homes and cardboard-box shacks even where the prophet’s house had been. And so they forgot about him. And then the grandmother, feeling the anger and distress of the people but also the distress and sadness of the spirit of the place, asked why in this land must everything that was good and strong and long-lasting be trampled into the earth? Why could the prophet’s place not be preserved while at the same time giving room to the people? She asked her children and her grandchildren this question, over and over again, and she went also to the city authorities and asked it there. People could not completely ignore her because she was an old woman and demanded respect. Every so often – to this day, Sipho imagined – she went into town to visit the municipal offices and ask these difficult questions, and every day she prayed, and so she tried to keep a piece of history surviving on the land. (pg. 205)



1990. Screens against the Sky. London : Bloomsbury.
1993. An Immaculate Figure. London : Bloomsbury.
2000. Bloodlines. Cape Town : David Philip Publishers.
2008. Nile Baby. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishers.

2015. The Shouting in the Dark. Johannesburg. Jacana.

1994. Altered state? Aarhus:  Dangaroo Press.
1995. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors. New York:  Oxford University Press.
2002. Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial,1890- 1920: Resistance in Interaction. New York:  Oxford University Press.
1998. Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918. New York:  Oxford University Press.
2004. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship by Robert Baden-Powell. New York:  Oxford University Press.
2005. Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation. Manchester:  Manchester University Press.
2008. Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction. New York:  Sterling Publishing Company.

Roy Campbell PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:24

Roy Campbell (1901 - 1957) was born in Durban, the son of Dr Samuel George Campbell. Roy Campbell co-edited (with William Plomer and Laurens van der Post) the magazine entitled Voorslag in 1926. Campbell is the author of a long poem entitled The Flaming Terrapin (1924), as well as poetry collections entitled Adamastor (1930), Flowering Reeds (1933), Mithraic Emblems (1936) and Talking Bronco (1946). He wrote long satirical poems entitled The Wayzgoose (1928) and The Georgiad (1931) on the South African way of life and intellectual climate. Campbell's autobiographical works include Broken Record (1934) and Light on a Dark Horse (1951). He lived in England and Spain before settling permanently in Portugal where he died in a car accident at the age of fifty six. Campbell was fluent in Spanish and translated poems of St John of the Cross, Baudelaire, Lorca, Paco d'Arcos and novels by Ea de Queirs.

He also wrote critical studies entitled Lorca (1952) and Wyndham Lewis which was completed in 1931 but first published posthumously in 1985. His non-fiction works on travel and social commentary include Taurine Provence (1932) and Portugal (1957). Campbell also wrote an adventure story for children entitled The Mamba's Precipice (1953).


Literary studies on Campbell include David Wright's Roy Campbell (1961), Rowland Smith's Lyric and Polemic: The Literary Personality of Roy Campbell (1973), John Povey's Roy Campbell (1977) and Peter Alexander's Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography (1982). Joseph Pearce is the author of a well received biography and literary study of Campbell entitled Bloomsbury and beyond: The friends and enemies of Roy Campbell (2001, Harper Collins), in which he affirms Campbell's merits as a poet and portrays him as having been greatly under-rated in literary circles.  In 2011, Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess, edited by Judith Coullie, was published. 

Thanks to The Guardian/NPG for permission to reproduce Jane Brown's 1951 portrait of the author.


Selected Work

The Zebras from Adamastor (1930)

From the dark woods that breathe of fallen showers,
Harnessed with level rays in golden reins,
The zebras draw the dawn across the plains
Wading knee-keep among the scarlet flowers.
The sunlight, zithering their flanks with fire,
Flashes between the shadows as they pass
Barred with electric tremors through the grass
Like wind along the gold strings of a lyre.
Into the flushed air snorting rosy plumes
That smoulder round their feet in drifting fumes,
With dove-like voices call the distant fillies,
While round the herds the stallion wheels his flight,
Engine of beauty volted with delight,
To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.


1923. The flaming terrapin.  London; Jonathan Cape Publishers.
1928. The wayzgoose; a South African satire.  London:  Jonathan Cape Publishers.
1930. Adamastor.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1930. The gum trees.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1931. The Georgiad: a satirical fantasy in verse.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1931. Choosing a mast.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1932. Taurine Provence.  London:  Desmond Harmsworth.
1932. Pomegranates.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1933. Flowering reeds.  London:  Boriswood Limited.
1934. Broken record.  London;  Boriswood Limited.
1936. Mithraic emblems. London:  Boriswood Limited. 
1936. Flowering rifle: a poem from the battlefield of Spain.  London:  Longmans, Green and Co. Publishers.
1941. Songs of the mistral.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1946. Talking bronco.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1951. Light on a dark horse.  London:  Hollis and Carter. 

1952. Poems of Baudelaire: a translation of Les fleurs du mal.  New York:  Pantheon. 
1952.  Lorca:  An Appreciation of his Poetry.  New Haven:  Yale University Press.
1953. The mamba's precipice.  London: Frederick Muller. 
1954. Nativity.  London:  Faber and Faber.
1957. Portugal.  London:  Max Reinhardt.
1960. Poems of Roy Campbell. (Edited by Uys Krige).  Cape Town:  Maskew Miller.
1985. Wyndham Lewis.  Durban;  University of Natal Press.
1985. Collected works. (Edited by P. Alexander, M. Chapman and M. Leveson).  Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers.
2002. Selected Poems. (Edited by J. Pearce).  Johannesburg:  Ad Donker Publishers.
2005. Selected Poems. (Edited by M. Chapman).  Johannesburg: Ad Donker Publishers.

2011. Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his daughters Anna and Tess. Winged Lion Press




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John Conyngham PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:22

John Conyngham (1954- ) was born in Durban and brought up on his family’s sugar farm inland from Stanger (now KwaDukuza). After three years at a farm school in the Doringkop district, he attended Cowan House, Hilton College, Haileybury & Imperial Service College in England, the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, where in his B.A. he majored in English and Classical Civilization, and Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Anglo-Irish literature. He later completed a post-graduate diploma in education through the University of South Africa.

After two years’ national service in the South African Army, and six months teaching English at Maritzburg College, he was for thirty-one years a journalist on The Witness (formerly The Natal Witness) in Pietermaritzburg, and from 1994 to 2010 the newspaper’s editor. He has held journalism fellowships at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St Petersburg, Florida, United States and at Oxford University.

During his years as a journalist he wrote three novels.

The Arrowing of the Cane (Ad Donker 1986) was joint winner of the 1985 AA Mutual-Ad Donker Vita Award and winner of the 1988 Olive Schreiner Prize and 1989 Sanlam Award, and was also published by Bloomsbury in Britain and Simon & Schuster/Fireside in the United States, and translated into French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. In the Irish Sunday Independent, Colm Tóibín likened it to Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing and Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist, saying it was ‘as good and as skilful as either of those two novels’, and ‘as good as anything which has come out of white South Africa’. Maureen Isaacson in the Johannesburg Sunday Independent called it ‘a brilliant novel’ and Heather Mackie in the Cape Times said it ‘must rank amongst the finest descriptive writing to come out of this country’. In the New York Times Book Review, Michael Ross said ‘Mr Conyngham has deftly fashioned a metaphor for a country facing its own three o’clock in the morning of the soul’ while in the Los Angeles Times Charles Solomon called it ‘a rare look at the rapidly vanishing privileged world of white South Africa’. English literature professor W.H. Bizley, writing in Natal University Focus, stated: ‘The Arrowing of the Cane has something of classic status in Natal terms’.


The Desecration of the Graves (Ad Donker 1990) was shortlisted for the 1991 M-Net Award and published in Britain by Bloomsbury, and translated into Spanish. In the Johannesburg Sunday Times, Barry Ronge described it as ‘a bracing blend of history, political analysis and a personal discovery which is externalised in a beautifully terse, non-committal plot’, before going on to say in The Natal Witness that ‘the reason he [Conyngham] is so successful is that he writes good English. There is a sense of refinement which one doesn’t often find anymore’. In El Mundo in Barcelona Nelson Marra called it ‘an entirely original and refreshingly different novel’.

The Lostness of Alice (Ad Donker 1998) was published in South Africa. Zolile Nqayi in the Sowetan found the black characters undeveloped and stereotypical but that the book was nevertheless ‘a fascinating read’. In Sawubona, Rina Minervini called it ‘Brilliantly descriptive – Conyngham’s polished but deceptively straightforward style simply draws you on and on’. On Capetalk, John Maytham described it as ‘a really intriguing story ... a poetic, oblique, rather fascinating take on Africa.’

After an 18-year interval, much of it taken up as a newspaper editor, he has written Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm (Natal Society Foundation 2016; Shuter and Shooter 2016), a narrative non-fiction account of an Anglo-South African family and its sugar farm, which has been called ‘outstanding’ by Stephen Robinson in Business Day, ‘inspirational’ by Patricia McCracken in Farmer’s Weekly, and ‘a consummate elegy’ by Stephen Coan in a review on this website.

Selected Work

from The Arrowing of the Cane (1986)

The road from Nonoti into the hills rises slowly out of the mugginess of the town, switchbacking its way past deep old houses seething with wispish Indian children, mango trees with their glossy leaves, car and bus carcasses, and fluttering flags on tall bamboo poles. Slowly, reluctantly, the sprawling suburb succumbs to the ubiquitous cane. Labouring under its load, the Land Rover edges into the sighing greenness, rising and falling with its ebb and flow.

Clusters of palms indicate farmhouses hugged to their outbuildings by high hedges. Signs on the verge announce the company's sections - Carrickfergus, Quantock, Umsundu and Kerry Dale - each with its own manager, overseers, sirdars, indunas and army of labourers. Next the polo club, its team once provincial champions, holders of the Waterford Cup, but now fighting relegation to the third division. Then the company hospital with its two white doctors and shuttered wards, and the little St John's Church with its cemetery. Planter families lie neatly in rows while the Indians' crosses wander from the bottom fence into a grove of gums.

Gradually the air becomes more rarified. Coolness jets through the vents. Far below to the left the Umvoti River coils through another finger of KwaZulu which was a hotspot during the Bambata Rebellion. Now overpopulated, overgrazed and rutted, the valley looks idyllic to strangers crossing this neck miles above it. There is a lay-by from which tourists can take photographs of the picturesque hutted kraals. As with anything gross, distance placates the onlooker.

After another steep ascent I reach Manning's Post, the local trading store and bus terminus where each morning one of the gardeners collects the newspaper, and returns in the afternoon for the post. The familiar sign - Rangoon Estate - is on the right, swaying gently from twin chains above the T-junction. Beyond it spreads a neighbour's plantation of bananas, the ripening bunches swathed in hessian.

The wide district road with its harsh all-weather surface bisects the farm and descends to the mill in the valley. Around it capillaries a network of private roads and cane-breaks. Continuing past the mouth of the avenue, I weave along a series of overgrown tracks to the cutting where I consult with the induna. Several men are absent; otherwise all seems to be well. A tractor and loaded trailer move slowly across the row corrugations and I dart ahead of them, doubling back to the avenue.

As I enter the vaulted shadow, a puff adder is crossing the pink gravel, writhing its chain pattern across the open ground. Hideously distended like a length of diseased bowel, it hurries as the Land Rover approaches, entering the path of the right front wheel. To continue would mean popping it, but I decide against it, bearing fractionally to the left as it disappears into the undergrowth bordering the Indians' houses. Why the sudden magnanimity? I ask myself, but the answer isn't forthcoming.


1986. The Arrowing of the Cane. Craighall Johannesburg: Ad Donker

1989. The Arrowing of the Cane. London: Bloomsbury (hardback)

1989. The Arrowing of the Cane. New York: Simon & Schuster/Fireside

1990. The Arrowing of the Cane. London: Bloomsbury

1990: När Sockerrören Brinne/The Arrowing of the Cane. Stockholm: Forum (hardback)

1991. Le commencement de la fin/The Arrowing of the Cane. Paris: Editions du Rocher

1994. Cuando florece le caña/The Arrowing of the Cane. Barcelona: Emecé Editores

1994. Lanças de fogo/The Arrowing of the Cane. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Best Seller

1994. The Arrowing of the Cane. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

2002. The Arrowing of the Cane. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

1990. The Desecration of the Graves. Parklands Johannesburg: Ad Donker

1992. La profanación de las tumblas/The Descecration of the Graves. Barcelona: Emecé Editores

1992. The Desecration of the Graves. London: Bloomsbury

2002. The Desecration of the Graves. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

1998. The Lostness of Alice. Johannesburg: Ad Donker/Jonathan Ball

2016. Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Society Foundation (hardback)

2016. Hazara: Elegy for an African Farm. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter



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